It's fairly common to use metal clothes hangers to extend the range of a radio's antenna. So John Jerome Spina had the idea of combining the radio and clothes hanger into one. The metal of the hanger would serve as the antenna. He was granted a patent for this invention in 1978.
I'm not sure he thought through what would then happen if you hung something on the hanger, such as a coat.
The Exit Traveler came on the market in the late 1980s. It was designed to let hotel guests rappel out of their window in the event of a fire.
Of course, you had to carry the thing around in your luggage, on the off chance that you got stuck in a burning building and the stairs were inaccessible. Then you had to find something to anchor the device to. And it was one-use only. Perhaps why it never caught on.
Seems that the inventors also tried to get hotels to pre-install them in rooms, anchored to walls. But the hotels probably had visions of guests rappelling out of windows even when there wasn't a fire.
Robert Linn theorized that a loudspeaker shaped like a human head, containing a mouth and nose cavity similar to that of a person, would produce sounds that were of a higher quality and more "pleasing and properly modulated" than a regular loudspeaker would. So he created (and patented in 1927) what he called the Amplifier or Enunciator.
I did some research and discovered that the origin of the idea of having food on a conveyor belt traces all the way back to 1919 when John Moses Baitinger of Minnesota applied for a patent on this concept, which he called his "Automatic Eater". His patent was granted in 1923. He had small wooden cars, laden with food and drinks, moving along tracks, pulled by a system of cables.
One of the strangest devices ever seen at the Minnesota State Fair was Baitinger's Automatic Eater. A kind of mechanized restaurant, the Eater consisted of a 150-foot-long counter along which moved a procession of eighty-five wooden cars propelled by a system of cables embedded in a groove in the surface. The cars held food, and diners snatched for their favorite dishes as the train coursed past. Some cars had drawers filled with ice, to keep fruit or celery fresh; some were warmed with heated soapstones.
The ensemble was the invention of the Reverend J.M. Baitinger, an Evangelic churchman, who stationed himself out in front with a megaphone to ballyhoo a new era in state fair dining: "Haba! Haba! Haba! This is the place to be merry. Eat! Eat! Eat! All you want for 50 cents; for without a full stomach you cannot enjoy the fair. Haba! Haba! Haba!"
The Automatic Eater cost Baitinger more than one thousand dollars to build but, because of its novelty and the economies it permitted, the cafe more than paid for itself during a trial run conducted on the last few days of the 1920 fair. "Through the medium of the Automatic Eater," he stated the following summer, "I do away with all excess help and employ only one cook, a dish washer, and a woman to keep the train well stocked with food. I pay no attention to what my customers eat, how long they stay or how much food they consume." But there were healthy profits, which Baitinger turned over to a St. Paul hospital.
Baitinger's Eater was, in many ways, a perfect expression of the mentality of the automation-mad 1920s, obsessed with speed, technology, and efficiency. There were minor drawbacks to the system, however. Diners seated near the end of the line sometimes found that the only cargo left for the eating was boiled cabbage.
I've come across reports in early 20th-century newspapers of an invention, designed to stop snoring, that worked by directing the sounds of the snoring into the snorer's own ear.
Oakland Tribune - Nov 26, 1933
I'm not sure if anyone ever really built this device, or if it was just a joke repeated by reporters.
The earliest report of it I've been able to find ran in newspapers in 1871. It attributed its invention to an unnamed woman from Iowa. However, I haven't been able to find a record of anything resembling this in the U.S. Patent Office, although there are numerous patents for anti-snoring devices.
The bathing poncho, invented by Timothy and Brenda Reardon, allows someone to shower while clothed. From the patent:
The present invention generally relates to wearing apparel. More specifically, the present invention is drawn to a disposable poncho adapted for wear while bathing or showering...
In institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, college dormitories, gyms, and the like, the bathing or showering facilities often lack the privacy to which one is accustomed to at home. Thus, becoming unclad to take a shower or a bath can be somewhat of an unpleasant and embarrassing experience. A covering that would preserve one's dignity by minimizing exposure while also insuring a thorough cleansing would certainly be a welcome addition in the marketplace.
I can appreciate the problem this addresses, but I wouldn't want to be the kid who shows up in the locker room shower wearing one of these.
Feb 1947: the residents of Quarryville, Pennsylvania used strange, new technology in an attempt to detect and communicate with groundhogs.
Chairman of the Hibernating Groundhog Lodge in Quarryville, Pa. calibrates the "ultra-secret invention" that will be used to contact "10,672 registered groundhogs in Lancaster County" on Groundhog Day. image source: Temple University Library
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.